PRISM, Government, and Software Developers

In 2013 having a landline phone number is bad. It doesn’t give anything but these annoying calls from telemarketers. The only reason I keep it is that it’s a part of the internet-phone-tv package provided by a phone company for cheap.

During the last week I started getting about 10 marketing calls a day, which I don’t pick, but they interrupt whatever else I do. So I decided to visit the National Don’t Call Registry, register my phone number online, and if after 31 day after registration someone still calls me, I have a right to complain to the government. Cause my government cares about me!

I have even a better idea. Since the government records all the phone numbers and the lengths of calls of businesses, why won’t they simply disconnect the numbers after say a thousand people picked their calls and hung up within 5 seconds? Hey government, get the PRISM program a real assignment!

Actually, I decided to write this blog for a different reason. Every time I run into an idiotic Web design, I want to share this with as many people as possible. Now take a look at this registration form, where I was supposed to enter my phone number.


This is one of my favorites. The goverment has enough money for the PRISM program, but not enough for hiring decent Web developers. How should I enter the phone number? You pick:

(212) 333-5555

In 2013 you can’t ask people to worry about the phone input format! If you are really smart and a detail-oriented person, you’ll read the small print in red “Please enter only numbers in Phone Number Field”. Not only that dumb Web developer knew how to strip away the dashes, spaces, and parens from the HTML form field, he doesn’t even not how to display that message in red in larger font and before the field itself!

No biggies. American citizens have time. They can experiment and somehow figure out the right format.I can tell you even more. That dummmy government employee didn’t even care about validating the input! You know these red borders that may appear in the fields with invalid entries? I’ve seen those too.

But this coder did not bother. Guess what he did? In the page markup he just specified that the length of the field has to be 10 characters. As simple as that. I’ll show you the code fragment from that page (no worries, you’ll get it even if you have no clue about Web programming). Check this out:


Any characters the user enters after the first ten will be quietly cut off. If the server-side code was written by the programmers of the same quality, the crippled phone number will be entered into the database.

I request the US Government to reveal the whereabouts of this software developer, the QA tester, and his manager. If any of them is a US Citizen, their passports have to be revoked forever and they should be sent to Cuba by the Aeroflot flight #150.


7 thoughts on “PRISM, Government, and Software Developers

  1. Yakov, If I would do that freaking thing I would simply set up 1-800-dontcall number – you called it – you are out – don’t even need to hear “thank you for registering with do not call …”

    1. Agree, this is a smart decision. The trend remains the same: the less you ask the user to enter, the better UX it is. The problem is that after making the right decision someone has to implement it. I hope this blog will bubble up to some decision maker in the government IT.

      1. State of NY provides this service @ 1-888-382-1222. They decided not to use my suggested number for whatever reason – apparently the company that owns it offered it to the FTC for free – but got rejected.

  2. Average length of the call though is 1 min – 50 seconds longer then I expected. And yes, they asked if I speak English or use rotary phone.

    1. I either don’t pick up the call (any 800-number) or hang up within the 3 seconds. If the person on the other end doesn’t start talking immediately, most likely it’s a computer-originated dial of a telemarketing. Today, someone called more from a regular Florida number, I picked the phone, he introduced himself as associate of the Miami Dolphins team – I didn’t even open the mouth. The entire call lasted under 5 sec.

  3. Conclusions: 1) built overseas (you know where)
    2) get (or design) a better answering machine, which can figure out marketing calls (800, 888, 866…)
    and respond appropriately
    3) if you are a good american developer, go get a job for NSA/PRISM, HLS, etc. You will have a better job security and your job (I still hope) won’t get outsourced. 2014 is only 30 yrs after “1984”. But shhh….

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